Eli Broad–Los Angeles collector, philanthropist and city advocate–on collecting for the future. — Interview by Audrey Rose Smith
“We all have an obligation to give back to our communities”
You have often voiced your frustrations at museum loan practices, specifically how troves of artwork from museums in major metropolitan capitals is rarely loaned to more regional institutions, limiting the public’s access. Recently, private art museums, such as yours, have become a near-ubiquitous feature around the world. Do you feel that is the avenue forward for greater public access to art?
All museums have a role to play in making great works of art accessible to the public, whether they are supported by one or many donors. All museums should make a greater effort to be welcoming places for all people. They should try to display more of the works they keep in storage. And they should loan works. That’s why, long before we created The Broad, my wife Edye and I established The Broad Art Foundation in 1984 as a lending library of art. The foundation, which now operates from The Broad, has made more than 8,500 loans to 500 museums around the world.
At what point, or rather, with what artwork did you realize you wanted to begin a collection?
When Edye and I moved to Los Angeles, I was working long hours. Edye started spending her time in art galleries, buying prints and lithographs. One day, she brought home a Toulouse-Lautrec poster. That was the first time I had heard of an artist that she had acquired. I became interested and as Edye likes to say, that’s when the budget went up.
The art scene in Los Angeles has changed dramatically in the last decade with many artists migrating from capitals like New York and galleries popping up across Los Angeles County. In the non-profit sector, local museums have continued to strengthen in prominence and visibility, much to your philanthropic efforts and cultural advocacy. With these developments, where do you see Los Angeles in the global cultural landscape in the next decade?
Los Angeles has become one of the great cultural capitals of the world. There is no more exciting place to experience contemporary art. I expect Los Angeles to continue to thrive far past the next decade.
“All museums should make a greater effort to be welcoming places for all people”
You favor the concept of “venture philanthropy” and have repeatedly emphasized that you’re not interested in traditional check-writing charity. With a rising generation of tech millionaires and billionaires in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, how do you think the next generation will approach philanthropy?
I have been impressed by the work of our country’s next generation of philanthropists. People like Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Laurene Powell Jobs and others are dedicating their wealth to doing good. But many new millionaires and billionaires have not yet made enough of a commitment to philanthropy. We all have an obligation to give back to our communities.
What philanthropic efforts within the arts do you have planned for the future?
Right now, we plan on continuing to welcome as many people as possible, especially first-time museumgoers, to The Broad. We will also continue sharing artwork through our loan program.